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Thursday, 5 April 1973
Page: 1172


Mr ENDERBY (Australian Capital Territory) (Minister for the Capital Territory) - I will not speak for too long in view of the unanimous feeling amongst honourable members that the proposition should be supported. Perhaps the extent to which this House has plenary powers over the Commonwealth Territories is not widely known. It exercises not only the powers that are normally attributed to the national Parliament but also those attributed to the State governments and local governments. As the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) said, it is true that the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory has enjoyed an unusually high reputation. It is an extremely efficient Committee. I think that everyone who serves on it or who has served on it has enjoyed the experience. I was a member of the Committee for only 2i years but it was an experience I value enormously, partly because on that Committee the party spirit that so bedevils this chamber on occasions - we saw it this morning - seems to be largely missing and this produces a greater sense of reward.

The honourable member for Parramatta (Mr N. H. Bowen) foreshadowed a possible amendment to be moved in the Senate. It was my understanding that it would be moved here. 1 am pleased that it was not moved here and may possibly be moved in the Senate. The amendment relates to only one aspect of the proposal, and that is that the chairman of the Committee shall be nominated by the Prime Minister. That seems to me to be a distinction without a difference. In doing it this way we gave effect to what we understood to be a long standing tradition amongst the joint committees to which at this stage the Australian Capital Territory Committee was somewhat of an exception. It was in the interests of consistency that the proposal was made. It was to bring this Committee more into line with the other committees and also in recognition of the fact that, whereas under the old system the Senate had a majority representation and as a result a Government senator became the chairman, there is now general agreement that the Senate, through its developed committee system, is overworked and there is a great shortage of time for senators to serve on committees.

The thought appealed to the Government that, as the Government now operates out of the House of Representatives in the manner in which it does, the majority should be here. I did not hear any disagreement with that proposal. Indeed, the honourable member for Parramatta did not disagree at all that the chairman should be a Government member. We took the view on the basis that the chairman should be someone nominated by the Prime Minister. Of course, we took account of the fact that there is a longstanding tradition in committees that the chairmen be nominated by the Prime Minister. We all know how the parties work in their party rooms. They elect their members to serve on these committees. I suggest it would be obvious to anyone that the Prime Minister would almost certainly give effect to the majority wishes of the members of the Committee. So, as I say, it is really a distinction without a difference.

I thank honourable members for what they have said. May I finish on a note which has already been mentioned by the honourable member for Canning, that in the past one feature of the Committee has been the enthusiasm and the dedication of the officers who serve the Committee - the officers of this place. I commend them for it and I am sure that it will continue.

Question resolved in the affirmative.







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